University of Toledo Prison Awareness Week kicks off with a special screening of Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal at 7 p.m. Tuesday at UT’s Memorial Field House Auditorium (FH 2100). The event is free and open to the public, and the audience will have an opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with the filmmakers through a Skype connection.
Writer-director Stephen Vittoria’s 2012 feature documentary is a portrait of a man many consider the nation’s most famous political prisoner. Through prison interviews, archival footage, and dramatic readings, and aided by a chorus of voices including Cornel West, Alice Walker, Dick Gregory, Angela Davis, Amy Goodman, and others, this film explores Mumia’s life before, during, and after Death Row — revealing, in the words of Angela Davis, “the most eloquent and most powerful opponent of the death penalty in the world ... the 21st Century Frederick Douglass.”
Since February, the documentary has been screening in a few major cities and college campuses, and UT is an official part of the film’s tour.
This screening is sponsored by the UT Black Student Union, Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society (Kappa Alpha Chapter), and the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition. It is a lead-in to a week of activities, April 8-13 on the UT campus, intended to raise public awareness about the human and institutional crisis of the prison system — not just in the nation but in Ohio and Toledo.
As a related follow-up to the event, WGTE-TV, Channel 30, will air award-winning filmmaker Eugene Jarecki’s provocative critique of America’s war on drugs, House I Live In.
The documentary lines up a thoughtful and persuasive group of journalists, crusaders, law enforcement officials, and victims, as well as the creator of The Wire David Simon, to make the sobering case that the biggest casualty of this war are young, impoverished black men.
For example, blacks account for 13 percent of the population and are also about 13 percent of crack cocaine users in this country, yet they make up 90 percent of the crack defendants in the federal prison system. House I Live In airs at 10 p.m. April 8 on Channel 30.